Explanation of the Ten Commandments
Collationes in Decem Praeceptis
Here begins the treatise on the commandments according to brother Thomas Aquinas.
Incipit tractatus de preceptis secundum fratrem Thomam de Aquino.
And first concerning charity.
Et primo de caritate.
Three things are necessary for man to be saved: namely, knowledge of what is to be believed, knowledge of what is to be desired, and knowledge of what is to be done.
Tria sunt homini necessaria ad salutem, videlicet scientia credendorum, scientia desiderandorum et scientia operandorum.
The first is taught in the creed, where knowledge of the articles of faith is given;
Primum docetur in symbolo de articulis fidei,
the second is in the Lord’s prayer;
secundum in oratione dominica,
the third is in the law.
tertium in lege.
Here we are concerned with knowledge of what is to be done, and with regard to this there is a fourfold law:
Sed considerandum quod quadruplex lex invenitur.
The first is the law of nature, and that is nothing other than the light of the intellect planted in us by God, by which we know what should be done and what should be avoided. God gave this light and this law in creation. But many believe that they are excused by ignorance if they do not observe this law. Against them the prophet says in the Psalm: many say: who will show us good things? (Ps 4:6), as if they do not know what they should do. But he replies: the light of your face, Lord, is stamped on us (Ps 4:7); that is, the light of the intellect, through which we know what should be done. For no one is ignorant that what he would not like to be done to himself he should not do to others, and similar norms.
Et prima dicitur lex naturae et haec nihil aliud est quam lumen intellectus insitum nobis a Deo, per quod cognoscimus quid agendum et quid vitandum; hoc lumen sive hanc legem dedit Deus homini in creatione. Sed multi sunt qui credunt excusari per ignorantiam si hanc legem non servant; sed contra hos dicit Propheta, Multi dicunt: quis ostendit nobis bona? quasi ignorent quid operandum sit; sed ipse idem respondet, Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine, lumen scilicet intellectus per quod nota sunt nobis agenda. Nullus enim ignorat quod id quod non vult sibi fieri, ipse non debet alteri facere et cetera talia.
Yet, though God gave man this law of nature in creation, the devil has sown in man another law on top of it, that of concupiscence. For in the first man, to the extent that the soul was subject to God, keeping the divine precepts, his flesh was also subject in all things to the soul or reason. But after the devil by his suggestion drew man away from the observance of the divine commands, his flesh likewise became disobedient to reason. The result is that, although man may wish good according to reason, nevertheless by concupiscence he tends to the contrary. That is what the Apostle says: but I see another law in my members, fighting the law of my mind (Rom 7:23). Thus frequently the law of concupiscence corrupts the law of nature and the order of reason. And therefore the Apostle in the same place adds: captivating me in the law of sin, which is in my members.
Sed licet Deus in creatione dederit homini hanc legem naturae, diabolus tamen superseminavit in homine aliam legem, scilicet, concupiscentiae. Quousque enim in primo homine anima fuit subdita Deo servando divina praecepta, et caro fuit subdita in omnibus animae vel rationi; sed postquam diabolus per suggestionem traxit hominem ab observantia mandatorum divinorum, ipsa etiam caro fuit inobediens rationi. Et inde accidit quod, licet homo velit bonum secundum rationem, tamen ex concupiscentia ad contraria inclinatur; et hoc est quod Apostolus ad Ro. Invenio aliam legem in membris meis repugnantem legi mentis meae. Et inde accidit quod frequenter lex concupiscentiae legem naturae et ordinem rationis corrumpit; et ideo subdit Apostolus et captivantem me in lege peccati, etc.
Because the law of nature was destroyed by the law of concupiscence, man needed to be brought back to the works of virtue and drawn away from vice, and for that the law of Scripture was necessary. But note that man is drawn from evil and led to the good by two motives. The first is fear, for the first and strongest motive for avoiding sin is the thought of the pains of hell and of the final judgment. Therefore it is said: the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Sir 1:16), and: the fear of the Lord drives away sin (Prov 16:6). Although someone who avoids sin because of fear is not yet just, nevertheless his justification begins there. In this way man is drawn away from evil and led to good through the law of Moses, while those who transgressed it were punished by death. Anyone who violates the law of Moses, at the testimony of two or three, should die without any mercy (Heb 10:28).
Quia ergo lex naturae per legem concupiscentiae destructa erat, oportebat quod homo reduceretur ad opera virtutis et retraheretur a vitiis, ad quae necessaria erat lex Scripturae. Sed sciendum quod aliquis retrahitur a malo et inducitur ad bonum ex duobus. Et primo timore; primum enim per quod maxime aliquis incipit peccatum vitare est consideratio poenae inferni et aeterni iudicii; et ideo dicitur Propheta, Initium sapientiae timor Domini, et in Prover., Timor Domini expellit peccatum. Licet enim qui ex timore non peccat non sit iustus, inde tamen incipit iustificatio. Hoc ergo modo retrahitur homo a malo et inducitur ad bonum per legem Moysi quam quidem irritantes morte puniebantur, Hebr., Irritam quis faciens legem Moysi etc.
But because that method was insufficient, and the law given by Moses, which drew people from evil by fear, was insufficient in that it restrained the hand but did not restrain desire, therefore there came another way of restraining from evil and inducing people to good; that is, the way of love. Thus there was given the law of Christ, that is, of the Gospel, which is the law of love.
Sed quia modus iste est insufficiens et lex quae data erat per Moysen hoc modo, scilicet per timorem, retrahebat a malis, insufficiens fuit; licet enim coercuerit manum non tamen coercebat animum. Et ideo est alius modus retrahendi a malo et inducendi ad bonum, modus scilicet amoris; et hoc modo data est lex Christi, scilicet lex evangelica quae est lex amoris.
A double difference should be noted between the law of fear and the law of love: First, the law of fear makes slaves of its observers, whereas the law of love makes them free. For one who acts only out of fear acts as a slave, whereas one who acts out of love acts as a son. Thus the Apostle says: where there is the Spirit of the Lord, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17), because such people are acting out of love like sons. The second difference is that the observers of the law of fear did not observe the law voluntarily, but the law of love is observed voluntarily. Another difference is that the first law is heavy, the second is light: for my yoke is easy and my burden light (Matt 11:30); and the Apostle says: you did not receive the spirit of servitude again in fear, but you received the spirit of adoption of sons (Rom 8:15).
Sed considerandum est quod inter legem timoris et legem amoris duplex differentia invenitur. Et prima quia lex timoris facit suos observatores servos, lex vero amoris facit eos liberos; qui enim operatur solum ex timore operatur per modum servi, qui vero ex amore per modum filii. Unde dicit Apostolus, Ubi Spiritus Domini, ibi libertas, quia videlicet tales ex amore ut filii operantur. Secunda differentia est quia observatores legis timoris observant eam non voluntarie, lex vero amoris voluntarie observatur. Alia differentia est quia prima gravis, secunda levis, Mat. Iugum enim meum suave etc.; Apostolus Non accepistis spiritum servitutis iterum in timore etc.
The Law of Charity, Which Is the Law of Christ
Lex caritatis quae est lex Christi
On the Effect of Charity
De effectu caritatis
As has been said, there is a fourfold law: first, the law of nature which God implanted in man at creation; second, the law of concupiscence; third, the law of Scripture; and fourth, the law of charity, which is the law of Christ.
Sicut iam supradictum est quadruplex lex invenitur. Et prima quidem est lex naturae quam Deus homini in creatione infudit, secunda lex concupiscentiae, tertia lex Scripturae, quarta est lex caritatis quae est lex Christi.
But it is clear that not all can sweat away to gain knowledge. Therefore Christ gave an abridged law which all can know, and no one can be excused from observing it because of ignorance. And that is the law of divine love. The Apostle says: the Lord will issue a brief statement on the earth (Rom 9:28). But it should be realized that this law must be the rule of all human acts. We see that manufactured goods are good and right when they measure up to a standard. So also any human work is right and virtuous when it harmonizes with the standard of divine love, and when it is out of tune with this standard it is not good or right or perfect. For human acts to be good, they must harmonize with the standard of divine love.
Sed manifestum est quod non omnes possunt scientiae insudare et propterea a Christo data est lex brevis ut ab hominibus omnibus posset sciri et nullus propter ignorantiam possit ab eius observantia excusari; et haec est lex divini amoris, unde Apostolus Verbum abbreviatum etc. Sed sciendum est quod haec lex debet esse regula omnium actuum humanorum. Sicut enim videmus in artificialibus, tunc unumquodque opus bonum et rectum dicitur quando regulae coaequatur, sic etiam quodlibet humanum opus rectum est et virtuosum quando regulae divinae dilectionis concordat; quando vero a regula caritatis discordat tunc non est rectum nec bonum neque perfectum. Ad hoc ergo quod actus humani boni reddantur oportet quod regulae divinae dilectionis concordent.
At this point note that this law of divine love produces four very desirable effects in man: First, it causes spiritual life in him. For it is clear that what is loved is inside the lover. Therefore whoever loves God has him in himself: whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him (1 John 4:16). It is also the nature of love that it transforms the lover into what is loved: They became abhorrent, just like the things they loved (Hos 9:10). But if we love God, we become divine, because he who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit (1 Cor 6:17). But as St. Augustine says: just as the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul; and that is clear, because we say that the body lives through the soul when it performs living functions, such as action and motion; but when the soul leaves, the body neither acts nor moves. Likewise the soul acts virtuously and perfectly when it acts through charity, through which God dwells in it; but without charity it cannot act: whoever does not love remains in death (1 John 3:14). It should be noted, however, that anyone who has all the gifts of the Holy Spirit apart from love does not have life. Whether it is the gift of tongues or the gift of faith or any other, without charity they do not give life. For if a dead body is dressed in gold and precious stones, it nonetheless remains dead.
Sed sciendum quod haec lex, scilicet divini amoris, quatuor efficit in homine valde desiderabilia. Et primo quidem causat in homine spiritualem vitam. Manifestum est enim quod naturaliter amatum est in amante; et ideo qui Deum diligit ipsum in se habet, quia sicut dicit beatus Iohannes Qui manet in caritate etc. Natura etiam amoris est haec quod amantem in amatum transformat; unde si vilia diligimus et caduca, viles et instabiles efficimur quia sicut dicit Propheta Facti sunt abominabiles sicut ea quae dilexerunt; si autem Deum diligimus divini efficimur quia Qui adhaeret Deo unus spiritus est. Sed sicut dicit beatus Augustinus Sicut anima est vita corporis ita Deus est vita animae; et hoc manifestum est: tunc enim dicimus corpus per animam vivere quando habet operationes proprias vitae, scilicet cum operatur et movetur. Anima vero recedente corpus nec operatur nec movetur; sic etiam anima tunc operatur virtuose et perfecte quando per caritatem operatur per quam Deus habitat in ea; absque caritate vero non operatur, Io. Qui non diligit manet in morte. Considerandum autem quod si quis habet omnia dona Spiritus Sancti absque caritate non habet vitam. Sive enim sit gratia linguarum sive scientiae sive sit donum fidei sive quidquid aliud ut donum prophetiae, sine caritate vitam non tribuunt. Si enim corpus mortuum induatur auro et lapidibus pretiosis nihilominus mortuum manet.
The second effect of charity is the observance of the divine commandments. For Gregory says that the love of God is never lazy. It does great things if it is there; if it refuses to work, it is not love. So a clear sign of charity is promptness in carrying out the divine precepts. For we see lovers doing great and difficult things for the sake of their beloved, and therefore the Lord says: if anyone loves me, he will keep my word (John 14:23). We should note that whoever keeps the law of divine love fulflils the whole law. Yet the divine commandments are twofold: some are affirmative, and charity fulfils these, because the fulfilment of the law, which consists in commandments, is love (Rom 13:10), by which they are observed; other commandments are prohibitive and charity also fulfils these because it does not act perversely, as the Apostle says (1 Cor 13:4).
Secundum vero est divinorum mandatorum observantia. Dicit enim Gregorius quod caritas non est otiosa; si enim est magna operatur, si vero non operatur non est ibi caritas. Unde manifestum signum caritatis est promptitudo implendi divina praecepta; videmus enim amantem propter amatum magna et difficilia operari, et propterea dicit Dominus, Io. Si quis diligit me sermonem meum servabit. Sed considerandum quod qui mandata et legem divinae dilectionis servat totam legem implet. Duplex est enim modus divinorum mandatorum: quaedam enim sunt affirmativa et haec quidem implet caritas quia plenitudo legis quae consistit in mandatis est dilectio qua servantur; quaedam vero sunt prohibitiva et haec etiam implet caritas quia non agit perperam ut dicit Apostolus.
The third effect of charity is to be a bulwark against adversity. For no adversity hurts someone who has charity, but it is all converted into good use: for those who love God, everything works together for good (Rom 8:28). Moreover, even adverse and difficult things seem easy to a lover, as we clearly see by observation.
Tertium quod facit caritas est quia est praesidium contra adversa. Habenti enim caritatem nulla adversa nocent, immo in utilitatem convertuntur, Ro. Diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum, immo etiam adversa et difficilia suavia videntur amanti sicut et apud nos manifeste videmus.
The fourth effect of charity is that it leads to happiness. For eternal happiness is promised only to those who have charity. For everything is insufficient without charity: after this a crown of justice awaits me, which the just judge will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who love his coming (2 Tim 4:8). Note that only a difference in charity, and not a difference in any other virtue, will make a difference in happiness. For many people were more abstemious than the apostles, but they exceed all others in happiness because of the excellence of their charity. For they had the first fruits of the Spirit, as the Apostle says (Rom 8:23). So any difference in happiness comes from a difference in charity.
Quartum vero est quod ad felicitatem perducit; solum enim caritatem habentibus aeterna beatitudo promittitur. Omnia enim alia absque caritate insufficientia sunt, Ti., In reliquo reposita est mihi corona iustitiae etc., sequitur sed et his qui diligunt adventum eius. Et sciendum quod solum secundum differentiam caritatis est differentia beatitudinis et non secundum aliquam aliam virtutem. Multi magis abstinentes fuerunt quam apostoli, sed ipsi in beatitudine omnes alios excellunt propter excellentiam caritatis: ipsi enim fuerunt primitias spiritus habentes sicut dicit Apostolus. Unde differentia beatitudinis ex differentia caritatis causatur.
On the Utility of Charity
De utilitate caritatis
So the four effects of charity are evident. Besides these, charity has some other effects which should not be passed over.
Sicut ex dictis iam manifestum est quatuor efficit caritas. Sed praeter omnia illa quaedam alia efficit quae praetermittenda non sunt.
The first of these is the remission of sin. We see that in our human life. If someone offends another and later loves him intimately, the offended lets go the offence against him because of love. Likewise God forgives the sins of those who love him: Charity covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8). He pointedly said, covers, because God does not see them as something to be punished. And, although he said, covers a multitude, nevertheless Solomon says that charity covers all offenses (Prov 10:12). The example of Mary Magdalene exemplifies this best: Many sins are forgiven her; and the reason is given: because she loved much (Luke 7:47). But someone may say: Since charity is sufficient to wipe away sins, penance is not necessary. But we should observe that no one really loves if he is not really repentant. For it is clear that the more we love someone, the more we are sorry if we offend him. And this is one effect of charity.
Et primo quidem caritas efficit peccatorum remissionem. Et hoc manifeste videmus ex nobis. Si enim aliquis aliquem offendit et ipsum postea intime diligat, propter dilectionem sibi offensa laxatur; sic etiam Deus diligentibus se peccata dimittit. Et propterea dicit beatus Petrus Caritas operit multitudinem peccatorum; et congrue dicit operit quia scilicet a Deo non videntur ut puniat. Sed licet dicat quod operit multitudinem, tamen Salomon dicit quod universa delicta operit caritas, Proverb. Et hoc maxime manifestat Magdalenae exemplum de qua dicit Dominus Dimissa sunt ei peccata multa. Sed quare? subdit: quoniam dilexit multum. Sed forte dicet aliquis: sufficit ergo caritas ad delenda peccata et non est necessaria poenitentia. Sed considerandum quod nullus vere diligit qui non vere poenitet. Manifestum est enim quod quanto magis aliquem diligimus tanto magis dolemus si ipsum offendimus. Et hic est unus caritatis effectus.
Another effect of charity is that it causes illumination of the heart. As Job says: we are all wrapped in darkness (Job 37:19). For we often do not know what to do or desire. But charity teaches everything necessary for salvation. Therefore it is said: his anointing teaches you about everything (1 John 2:27). And that is because where there is charity, there is the Holy Spirit, who knows everything and leads us onto the right way, as said in the Psalm (Ps 142:10). Therefore it is said: you who fear God, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened (Sir 2:10); that is, to know what is necessary for salvation.
Item causat cordis illuminationem. Sicut enim dicit Iob omnes involvimur tenebris; frequenter enim nescimus quid agendum vel desiderandum, sed caritas docet omnia necessaria ad salutem. Et ideo dicitur I Io., Unctio docebit vos de omnibus. Et hoc est quia ubi caritas ibi Spiritus Sanctus qui omnia novit, qui deducet nos in viam rectam sicut in Psalmo dicitur. Et ideo dicitur in Eccli. Qui timetis Dominum diligite illum et illuminabuntur corda vestra, as sciendum scilicet necessaria ad salutem.
Another effect of charity is to produce perfect joy in man or joy and peace. For no one really has joy without being in charity. For anyone who desires something is not joyful or satisfied until he gets it. In temporal things something not possessed can be desired, but when possessed it can be despised and cause boredom. But that is not so in spiritual things, for one who loves God has him, and therefore the spirit of one who loves and desires him is satisfied in him. For whoever remains in charity remains in God and God in him (1 John 4:16).
Item efficit in homine perfectam laetitiam sive gaudium et pacem. Nullus enim vere gaudium habet nisi existens in caritate; quicumque enim aliquid desiderat non gaudet nec quietatur donec illud adipiscatur. Et accidit in temporalibus rebus quod non habitum appetatur, habitum vero despicitur et taedium generat; sed non sic accidit in spiritualibus, immo qui Deum diligit habet ipsum. Et ideo animus diligentis et desiderantis quietatur in eo, Qui enim manet in caritate in Deo manet et Deus in eo.
Another effect of charity is perfect peace. Temporal things can often be desired, but when they are possessed, the spirit of the one who desired them is not satisfied, but after getting one thing, he desires another, and therefore Isaiah says: the heart of the wicked man is like a rough ocean which cannot be quiet (Isa 57:20). And in the same place: there is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord. But that does not happen with love of God. For whoever loves God has perfect peace: great peace to those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble (Ps 118:165). And that is because only God can fill our desire. For God is greater than our heart, as the Apostle says. And therefore Augustine says (Confessions, 1): you made us for you, Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. And in the Psalm: he fills your desire with good things (Ps 102:5).
Item efficit pacem perfectam. Accidit enim frequenter in rebus temporalibus quod desiderantur, sed ipsis habitis adhuc desiderantis animus non quiescit, immo uno iam habito aliud appetit, et ideo dicit Is., Cor impii quasi mare fervens quod quiescere non potest; et iterum, Non est pax impiis dicit Dominus. Sed non sic accidit in caritate circa Deum; qui enim Deum diligit pacem perfectam habet, Ps. Pax multa diligentibus nomen tuum. Et hoc ideo est quia solus Deus sufficit ad implendum desiderium nostrum; Deus enim maior est corde nostro, sicut dicit Apostolus. Et ideo dicit Augustinus, Fecisti nos Domine ad te, etc.; et in Psalmo, Qui replet in bonis desiderium tuum.
Another effect of charity is to give man great dignity. For all creatures serve the divine majesty, since they were all made by him, as manufactured goods serve their maker. But charity turns a slave into a free man and friend. So the Lord said to the apostles: I no longer call you slaves but friends (John 15:15). But was Paul not a slave and the other apostles who described themselves that way? In answer, we must distinguish two kinds of servitude. The first is that of fear, and that is painful and not meritorious. For anyone who refrains from sin only because of fear of punishment does not merit because of this, but is still a slave. If someone acts from love of justice and divine love, he is not acting like a slave, but like a free man, because he does so voluntarily. Therefore he says: I no longer call you slaves. And why? The Apostle answers: you did not receive the spirit of servitude again in fear, but you received the spirit of adoption of children (Rom 8:15). For there is no fear in charity (1 John 4:18), since fear is penal, but charity has delight.
Item facit hominem magnae dignitatis. Omnes enim creaturae ipsi divinae maiestati serviunt, omnia enim ab ipso sunt facta, sicut et artificiata subserviunt artifici. Sed caritas de servo facit liberum et amicum, et ideo dicebat Dominus apostolis Iam non dicam vos servos sed amicos. Sed nunquid non Paulus servus et alii apostoli qui se Christi servos scribunt? Sed sciendum quod duplex est servitus. Et prima est timoris, et haec est poenosa et non meritoria; si enim aliquis a peccato abstinet solum timore poenae, non meretur ex hoc, sed adhuc est servus; qui vero amore iustitiae et amore divino, non sicut servus operatur sed sicut liber quia voluntarie. Et propterea dicit, Iam non dicam vos servos; et quare? Ad hoc respondet Apostolus quia Non accepistis spiritum servitutis iterum in timore etc. Timor enim non est in caritate, sicut dicit Io., habet enim poenam, sed caritas delectationem.
Again, charity makes us not only free people but also sons, so that we can be called and be sons of God (1 John 3:1). For an outsider becomes the adopted son of someone when he acquires a right to his property. So also charity acquires for us a right to the inheritance of God, which is eternal life, because if we are sons, we are also heirs, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–17). And: see how they are numbered among the sons of God (Wis 5:5).
Item non solum facit caritas liberos sed filios, ut scilicet filii Dei nominemur et simus. Et hoc vere, tunc enim aliquis extraneus efficitur alicuius filius adoptivus quando acquiritur sibi ius in hereditate illius. Sic et caritas acquirit ius in hereditate Dei quae est vita aeterna quia heredes quidem Dei, coheredes autem Christi, et Sap., Ecce quomodo computati sunt inter filios Dei etc.
How Charity Is Acquired and Retained
Quomodo habetur caritas
So much for the benefits of charity. It now remains to work hard to acquire it and hold onto it. But we must realize that no one can possess charity on his own, but it is the gift of God alone. So John says: not as if we loved God, but he first loved us (1 John 4:10). That is, he does not love us because we first loved him, but the fact that we love him is brought about in us by his love.
Ex iam dictis patent utilitates caritatis. Postquam igitur tam utilis est studiose laborandum est ad acquirendum eam et retinendum. Sed sciendum quod nullus a se caritatem habere potest, immo solius Dei est donum. Et propterea dicit Io., Non quasi nos dilexerimus Deum, sed quoniam ipse prior dilexit nos, quia videlicet non propterea ipse nos diligit quia nos prius diligimus eum, sed hoc ipsum quod nos diligimus eum causatur in nobis ex dilectione ipsius.